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Rouble firms past 55 vs dollar for first time since early July

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MOSCOW — The Russian rouble firmed past 55 against the dollar to a more than two-week high on Tuesday, bolstered by local demand related to tax payments and shrugging off the finance ministry’s plans to resume forex purchases for state coffers.

The rouble is set to see support in the second half of July as export-focused companies usually step up conversion of their forex revenues to meet local liabilities. Tax payments began last week and the bulk are due next week.

At 1154 GMT, the rouble was 2.5% stronger against the dollar at 54.98, a level last seen on July 4.

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The rouble is expected to trade within the 54-58 range to the greenback in the short term, Sberbank analysts said.

Against the euro, the rouble gained 2% to 56.05 , its strongest since July 1.

The rouble has become the world’s best-performing currency http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/GLOBAL-CURRENCIES-PERFORMANCE/0100301V041/index.html so far this year, boosted by measures – including restrictions on Russian households withdrawing foreign currency savings – taken to shield Russia’s financial system from Western sanctions imposed after Moscow sent troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24.

The rouble’s strength has concerned officials as it dents Russia’s income from exporting commodities and other goods priced in dollars and euros.

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To cap gains in the rouble and build up reserves, Russia may reinstate the budget rule that diverts excess oil revenues into its rainy-day fund.

But in the short term, the resumption of state FX purchases that could total no more than an equivalent of $4 billion a month is unlikely to put substantial pressure on the rouble, analysts at VTB My Investments said.

This week, the central bank, which supports the idea of the free-floating rouble, can ease upside pressure on the currency by cutting rates. Analysts polled by Reuters on average expect it to trim the key rate by 50 basis points to 9%.

Russian stock indexes were mixed.

The dollar-denominated RTS index was 0.9% higher at 1,179.6 points. The rouble-based MOEX Russian index fell 1.8% to 2,059.1 points. (Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Jacqueline Wong, William Maclean)


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